The main entrance to the Church is via the Gardens. As you pass through the gardens, remember that this is a burial ground and is the last resting place for many hundreds of people, including those who lost their lives in the Great Plague of London of 1665. Pause here and reflect on the shortness of life Pray for those buried here: Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord and let light perpetual shine upon them. Amen.
The West Doors
Many people ask why the entrance to the Church is not on the Piazza. This is all the more so as the Piazza elevation has such a splendid Portico (also the setting for the opening scene of Shaw’s Pygmalion and Lerner and Lowe’s My Fair Lady). Inigo Jones did indeed originally plan for the entrance to St. Paul’s to be on the Piazza. However, this broke with the tradition that, in most Churches, the Altar is placed so that the people face east – towards Jerusalem and the place of Jesus’ death and Resurrection. To fit Inigo Jones plan, the Altar would had had to have been placed at the west end of the Church. At the last minute, the then Bishop of London insisted that the normal plan be followed, so that the whole church was, in effect, ‘turned round’ and the ‘door’ on the portico elevation is, in fact, false! Pause: here and reflect on the words of Jesus, ‘Listen carefully and you will hear me knocking at the door: I will come in with you and share your life’. Pray that all who enter these doors may hear the invitation in those words.
The Foyer (or Narthex) was restored in 2017. On the left and right, sweeping staircases to up to the organ loft and gallery. In the months before Christmas, the Narthex is home to the Cards for Good Causes organisation and you are invited to buy some of their charity cards. Pause and reflect on the thousands of people who volunteer for good causes all over the world Pray for all the organisations represented by Cards for Good Causes
The Grinling Gibbons Carving
On your right in the Narthex is the carving, given to this church by the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Pause and reflect on all who enrich the world with art and beauty Pray for all artists that their work may beautify the world. Now you enter the Church You will hopefully notice the sense of peace and calm and serenity. Try to experience the sense of this place being ‘the house of God’. As you begin your visit, take in the sights and sounds of the building. Think about how you are feeling if you have any anxieties or concerns. If so, acknowledge them quietly (don’t try to push them away or pretend that don’t exist) but then put them down for a little while. Pause and reflect on how much noise there is in our lives Pray for peace in our hearts, our lives and our world. Start your virtual tour on the left (north) hand side You will first notice the memorial to Thomas Arne, the famous composer. The musical line carved in the memorial is the opening phrase of his most famous composition, ‘Rule Britannia’. Pause and reflect on this nation Pray for all musicians and all who bring joy and beauty to the world
The Theatrical Memorials
You will now be aware of the huge number of memorials to members of the theatrical profession. There isn’t room here to describe them all, but a separate list is available. Recently, a memorial book for members of the theatre profession has been opened, and you will find this further down the left aisle. On the south wall, you will especially notice the ashes of Ellen Terry, in a very fine monument, and the ashes of Dame Edith Evans lie in a vault under the south Altar. Pause and reflect on the work down by actors, directors, stage managers and all who work in the entertainment industry. Pray the Theatre Chaplaincy UK prayer (our sister organisation based at this church) Creator God, source of all life. From you come the inspiration and the talent to create; encourage those who seek through the performing arts to portray faithfully the struggles, hopes, tears and laugher of life’s journey. Inspire them by you Spirit; give them humility in success and hidden reserves when the going is tough. Bless all who work in the sacred spaces of stage and studio, that their craft may be a source of healing, hope and unity in our broken world. Amen.
The pulpit, designed by Grinling Gibbons (or by one of his pupils) this fine pulpit dominates the north side of the Church. Pause and reflect on all who seek to teach the Christian faith Pray for all who have preached from this pulpit
The Icon Chapel
The Icon Chapel is reserved for private prayer, and we ask that you should be completely silent in this part of the Church. Please feel free to add your prayer requests in the book, to light a candle and to rest in the presence of God for as long as you like. The Icon shows the Madonna and child in a tight embrace, watched and venerated by St. Paul (our Patron Saint) and St. Genesius (Patron Saint of actors). The Madonna tenderly holding her child appears lost in contemplation – perhaps of what is to come. The child Jesus clambers over his mother, desiring her attention by rubbing his cheek up against hers and tickling the back of her neck. Holding his letters, St. Paul reverently stands apart from the vision, whilst Genesius reaches out to touch the Madonna’s garment. The Icon also portrays this Church’s long connection with the theatre by including the comedy and tragedy masks. This icon was commissioned by St. Paul’s Covent Garden in 200-4, and was written by Regan O’Callaghan, an iconographer and Anglican Priest. Please note that in Advent and Christmas the Icon Chapel is replaced by our giant Crib.
The Sanctuary & The Altar
Above the main Altar, you will notice the copy of Botticelli’s masterpiece of the Madonna and Child, the original is in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence – a visual reminder that God chose to enter our human family in the person of Jesus (the Incarnation) Pause and reflect that ‘The word became flesh and dwelt amongst us Pray: Hail Mary full of grace The Lord is with thee Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus Holy Mary mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen. At the centre of the Church is the Altar where we shre with Jesus his last meal, his giving of himself for the whole world, for all eternity. He we also glimpse the banquet there will be when the norw world of God, that Jesus spoke of (‘The Kingdom’) arrives in all its fullness. Pause and reflect on the words of St. Paul, ‘When you feast on this bread and share the cup together you are openly celebrating the death of Jesus Christ. Pray Blessed and praised be Jesus Christ in his most holy Sacrament, Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest.
The Blessed Sacrament Chapel
The Blessed Sacrament (‘The Body of Christ’) consecrated during Holy Communion, is kept reserved here, for distribution to the sick and others outside service times. The place is marked with a light and it is traditional to genuflect (to go down on one knee) when passing this place (St. Paul: ‘At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow’) Pause and reflect that Jesus came into the world to save sinners Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you that in this wonderful sacrament you have given us the memorial of your passion: grant us so to reverence the sacred mysteries of your body and blood that we may know within ourselves and show forth in our lives the fruits of your redemption; for you are alive and reign with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Royal Visit
A book on the south wall commemorates the visit by Her Majesty the Queen to this Church on 19th February 1988. Pause and reflect on all the leaders of the nations Pray: O Lord our heavenly Father, high and mighty, King of kings, Lord of lords the only Ruler of princes, who dost form thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth. Most heartily we beseech thee with thy favour to behold our most gracious Sovereign Lady, Queen Elizabeth, and so replenish her with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that she may always incline to thy will, and walk in thy way; Endue her plenteously with heavenly gifts; grant her in health and wealth long to live; strengthen her that she may vanquish and overcome all her enemies, and finally after this life she may attain everlasting joy and felicity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
On the south side is the Lectern (from the Latin word, ‘to read’) The Bible is a huge collection of books that holds for us the world of Jesus, his religion, his followers, his own teachings and life. The Bible can be difficult to interpret, and most of us need guidance in trying to understand it. However, from the lectern we hear again the words of hope Pause and reflect on the ‘people of the Book’: Jews, Christians and Muslims. Pray ‘I long for the voice of God more than I could ever long for gold, much more than even the richest gold. They melt in the mind like honey richer and smoother than the sweetest honey… .from the Psalms.
The Font is traditionally placed near the door of the Church, since it is through Baptism that we enter and become members of the Church. The imagery of Baptism is powerful – water cleanses and renews, guenches and refreshes, but can also be a powerful force that kills. Christians believe that when we are Baptised, we are Baptised into the death of Jesus, and hence share in his Resurrection The new life of Resurrection is not ‘pie in the sky when we die’, but a new way of living in the here and now. Pause and reflect on the words of St. Paul, ‘The old world has been washed off you completely, you have been set apart for the new. Pray: for all who have been baptised here and for all those who search for God in other ways. We hope that you have enjoyed your virtual tour of St. Paul’s Church Do come and visit us for real! And now: May God give you his comfort and his peace, his light and his joy in this world and the next,, and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with your always. Amen.